So you couldn’t book cheap tickets to your home for Christmas holidays. But! This means you will spend the holidays in Greece!
You mostly know (from the movies) that Christmas Holidays is a period when people are calm, they eat and drink together and “do some caroling”.
In Greece, Christmas means (or at least it used to) basically two things; FIRE AND SLAUGHTER.
Here are some customs that make Christmas in Greece one of the most metal \m/ occasions.
1.”Feed the tap”
You have seen animals being fed. You have seen babies being fed. You have seen even adults being fed. But have you ever seen water taps being fed? (If you have, we strongly advise you to cut down the Christmas booze for a moment :P ). In many regions all over Greece, when there was no water network, young girls would take their pitchers to fill them from a river or a tap connected to it. On Christmas’ or New Year’s Eve they would take their pitchers along with food (wheat, honey, cheese etc) to give it to the tap. Makes sense, right? Well, no. But there was an excuse. They would bring it as a bribe to the tap (It still makes *no* sense), so the next year would flow as easily as the water through the tap.
Well, back in the days, such thing could seem plausible. But today? Well….
2. «We are here to burn you»
Well, the Son of God is born. What do you do?
You pray? -Too mainstream.
You follow the star? –Unless you are one of the three wise men, you shouldn’t.
You try burning your neighbours?
In Epirus region, specifically in some villages of Arta, on Christmas Day, when people go to their neighbours to wish them “Merry Christmas”, they hold a burning stick. At the same time, small fires are lit all over the streets of the village.
The roots of this custom are on a myth that when the shepherds visited baby Jesus in the stable, they couldn’t see their way because it was too dark, so they lit torches that burnt some of the bushes on their way.
Is it wtf? No. But if wishing your neighbours “Merry Christmas” by burning their village isn’t metal (\m/ ) I don’t know what is.
3. The Ship
Before King Otto’s reign in Greece, the Christmas Tree wasn’t famous at all.Instead, the children (and especially the sailors’ families) would make small ships, since Christmas was one of the very few days of the year, when sailors would come back home and families could be altogether. Even though today the Christmas Tree is the most implemented, you can often see some ships at homes or even at squares parks and other public places.
Moreover, in Chios island, the various parishes, construct some model ships based on real ones. On New Year’s Eve they compete against each other in terms of similarity to the real ones and the crews, the families and the parishes sing the Carol.
Fun fact: You can see one large Christmas boat at Syntagma Square in Athens
4. Gourouochara or Joy of the Pig
In this case the only one who isn’t joyful is the pig. In Thessaly Region, 4-5 close families would select their best (aka fat) pig for slaughter and schedule when each family would slay their own pig. Since meat wasn’t so usual a meal in the past, slaying an animal to eat its meat, would be something extraordinary, so it would be accompanied by music and dancing. A very typical day to start the slaughter is December 27th, Saint Stephen’s day and that’s why he is also called “Pig Stephen”.
5.Kolida Babo (Grandma! Slaughter!)
In Pella, even today, a huge bonfire is lit and the people shout “Kolida Babo” which means “Grandma! They slay”. It is a custom based on the slaughter of all the male toddlers on command of King Herod, after he found out that Jesus Christ was born. Today this fire is said to exorcise the Evil.
+Something to eat during Christmas holidays
Maybe the most common custom, all over Greece, since all households regardless of religion do it. It is a sweet cake which has a golden coin (florin). On New Year’s Day (very usually right after the year change), families slice the cake and the lucky one who gets the slice with the coin is said to have a good luck all year long.
Kourampiedes and Melomakarona
Two equally common desserts, very typical for Christmas. You can find them in your nearest bakery! Try them (but make sure you have enough money to buy a lot of them because these things are addictive)
Moreover, during the holidays (and especially on New Year’s Eve) many lotteries take place (the most famous one is the National New Year’s Lottery) . Give it a shot!